FONTANA, Calif. – Kevin Harvick came from the 18th starting position to win by a nose last Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
It took Harvick 169 laps to get to the front. It took eventual fifth-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. 75 laps to get from the 26th-place starting position to the front of the field.
Those impressive runs from mid-pack to the lead are a testament to the effectiveness of the low-downforce aerodynamic package NASCAR introduced into the Sprint Cup Series in 2016 as the full-time configuration on open-motor tracks.
“As a driver, especially last week, when you look at myself and Dale Jr., and you look at the way you could go through traffic, it seems like the cars were affected a lot less by the aero push and being around each other,” Harvick said on Friday morning at Auto Club Speedway, site of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET). “They seemed a lot less dependent on where you are in the field.
“Obviously, they’re still not going to be as good as they were if you were the lead car, but I think we’ve definitely made some headway.”
Harvick expects more of the same in Sunday’s race at the rough, high-speed two-mile track.
“I think there’s obviously a lot of notes that have been gathered and, from a driver’s standpoint, I think this is the race we’ve all been looking forward to the most, just because of the fact that you have some high speeds and lots of racing lanes and the cars are going to slide all over the place,” Harvick said.
“So it’s definitely a weekend that we’re all looking forward to. This has probably been one of our better races over the past several years, so it’s going to be a fun weekend.”
A winner at Fontana in 2011, Harvick was third fastest in Friday’s opening Sprint Cup practice, as drivers concentrated on fine-tuning their qualifying setups.